Featured Fractional COO of the Week: Jeff Bray

Jeff Bray is working with startups and small to mid-sized businesses as a Fractional COO. Jeff is helping his clients with creating organizational strategies and helping with the execution of the strategy to improve the operations. He is currently residing in the US and helping startups from all around the world.

  • What is the definition of being a fractional executive for you?

A fractional executive is an executive that an organization can hire on a part-time basis or on an as-needed basis. These leaders are there to provide guidance, expertise, and leadership. They help businesses and organizations avoid pitfalls and/or roadblocks in their business model to ensure they are on the right strategic and operational track to drive their strategy. These fractional executives offer these services at a fraction of the cost of full-time, which makes them attractive to small and medium-sized companies that are starting out and do not have the budget to support a full-time employee in every executive role.

  • What roles within companies do you fill?

I can cover a variety of roles that would span marketing, operations, and technology, but comes down to the type of needs the organization has at the point in their business cycle. Prior engagements I have done are Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer.

  • How do you help startups/companies as a fractional executive?

I can be someone the CEO and other key leaders can bounce ideas off on and provide a framework to drive the strategy and execution of the company; without having to make a full-time commitment until the organization is ready.

Depending on the operational needs of your organization, the fractional executive can help create an effective roadmap for all operations pertinent to your business. This could be streamlining operational processes, assisting in supply chain/vendor challenges, to improving sales funnel management.

You may need a fractional executive for a specific purpose and project, to bring a skill set to the table that your company does not currently possess. 

  • Tell us about an experience at a company you worked with that defines your career so far.

My time at DFC Global, I had a chance to lead a start-up opportunity. A retail store front non-bank financial company wanted to begin lending digitally. I partnered with the SVP of M&A and created a strategy to expand into new markets and new products. This required interaction with the executive team and Board to enable the appropriate allocation of capital to the strategy. When I joined the firm, the digital lending service was only in the United Kingdom, had one product, and had annual revenue of $58M. Over a five-year period, we scaled the company to operate in eight countries (with two more in the planning stages), offering seven lending products, delivering over $400M in revenue. 

  • Tell us about a time when things went horribly wrong at a company you worked with.

I have led through several tough business change cycles. One of the hardest times in my career was leading a consumer banking market for Bank of America as the 2007/08 financial crisis unfolded. My team had a front-row seat to new challenges as the credit markets tightened and the impact it had on our customers and our business performance. 

Additionally, I was asked to join the Bank of America countrywide transition team later in 2008 and got to learn and experience the challenges of leading in a business vertical in complete disruption. These types of events are great teaching platforms on grit, perseverance, and innovation to solve small and large complex problems to keep your teams and businesses moving forward. 

  • How did your prior experiences set you up to be a great fractional executive?

I have come to appreciate that time is a key component in allowing for me to experience various leadership opportunities and get exposure to different cultures and business models. I have had a chance to go through business cycles and learn what success looks like in growth and business disruption cycles. I have been able to lead over 50+ change initiatives at small, medium, and large organizations. The last five years, I led technology and operations for an organization and really got to learn the critical intersections that exist and how key they are to scaling a business’s efficiently and effectively.

  • How do you typically structure your engagements with companies?

I have utilized a retainer model and a project-based model in my engagements.

  • Why should startups choose fractional executives instead of hiring full time? (Benefits…)

A fractional executive allows startups/companies to evaluate and test and evaluate before you make an investment in this role. Fractional execs do not require the retirement benefits or bonuses that a typical executive would. It is a “pay for what you need” model that is a win-win for everyone.

Another benefit of using a fractional executive is their fresh, outside experience. Most fractional executives are 20 or 30-year subject matter experts and have prior experience of being full-time executive. They have worked in that type of role in other companies and industries and can apply their learnings to your business. This experience means they can also challenge you to do things differently and can see new opportunities for growth you may have overlooked.

  • What do you like most about being a fractional executive?

First, I like meeting new dynamic leaders, their organizations, and engaging them to learn and share my experiences. Lastly, I enjoy being part of a team that can help drive a positive change and make an impact on the business model and/or customer experience.